East-based army claims con­trol of most of Libya

Pretoria News - - WORLD -

LIBYA’S east-based army Ah­mad al-Mis­mari said on Wednesday that it had con­trolled the ma­jor­ity of Libyan ter­ri­to­ries as the armed con­flict with the ri­val UN-backed gov­ern­ment con­tin­ued.

“The Libyan Arab Armed Forces con­trol 99% of the coun­try, ei­ther by hav­ing ar­eas where our forces are phys­i­cally present or by hav­ing ar­eas in the range of our air force or ar­tillery,” Mis­mari, spokesper­son for the army, told a press con­fer­ence in the eastern city Beng­hazi.

“The army is com­mit­ted to the cease­fire, but still has the right to firmly re­spond to any breach to the cease­fire, which ex­plains the clashes that oc­cur from time to time be­tween our forces and ter­ror­ist groups,” he said.

The spokesper­son also said that the main prob­lem in the coun­try was not eco­nomic or po­lit­i­cal, but a se­cu­rity prob­lem, “caused by mili­tias and ter­ror­ists that con­trol cer­tain parts of the coun­try”.

“We aim to elim­i­nate ter­ror­ism, dis­man­tle mili­tias and take con­trol of all weapons in the coun­try,” he said.

Re­spond­ing to a state­ment is­sued by the UN Sup­port Mis­sion in Libya (Uns­mil) on Wednesday, in which the mis­sion said the east-based army re­fused to grant per­mis­sion for its planes to land in Libya, Mis­mari said that the Uns­mil’s planes were “wel­come to land in any air­port in Libya”.

He said that the army did not grant per­mis­sion for the air­planes to land in the cap­i­tal Tripoli’s Mit­iga In­ter­na­tional Air­port be­cause the air­port was “fully con­trolled by a Turk­ish mil­i­tary com­man­der, who grants such per­mis­sion”.

The east-based army had been leading a mil­i­tary cam­paign since April last year in and around Tripoli, at­tempt­ing to take over the cap­i­tal city from the UN-backed gov­ern­ment.

The fight­ing killed and in­jured thou­sands of people and forced more than 150 000 civil­ians to flee their homes.

The ri­vals agreed to a cease­fire on Jan­uary 12, but both par­ties ex­changed ac­cu­sa­tions of breach­ing the truce.

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